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Why Moms Should Flex Their Capabilities

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I recently had an older gentleman tell me to be careful not to break a nail, while I was doing yard work. Okay, not really, but that’s essentially what I heard him say. He had seen me shovel and move a few tons of landscaping rock. The next day as I continued my work, he slowed his car, rolled down his window and asked how my arms and shoulders felt.

“A little sore, but fine,” I said, punctuating the sentence with a little laugh.

He disregarded the laugh and asked with paternal caution, “You didn’t overdo it did you?”

That wasn’t the response I had expected. My laugh faded as I said, “Nope. Sure didn’t.” I wiped the sweat from my brow as I anticipated the direction of the conversation.

“Okay,” he said in a tone that mimicked his lack of approval. “Just make sure you take it easy.”

As he pulled away, my cheeks began to burn, and not because of physical exertion. They burned with rage over feeling reprimanded by someone who doubted my capability to use my muscles, to exert some effort and to move some stones.

I’m not going to say that moving that stone wasn’t hard work or that I enjoyed it, but I did it. Why? Partly because it had to be done, partly because I could, and partly because I want our son and two daughters to know that women are capable.

Why Moms Should Flex Their Capabilities

I realize that the man’s remark was probably well intentioned, but what I heard him say in his tone was that women aren’t strong. It is okay to tell us that we are beautiful or sweet or excellent cooks. It’s fine to remark on our cute haircuts or our weight loss, but to comment on us being strong or capable must come with a warning.

I wanted to chase down his car, knock on his window and tell him about the countless miles I have run, the sides of rocks I have climbed, the white water that I rafted. I wanted to tell him about how I used to have earthworms as pets and enjoyed scaring my brother with bugs that I would find. I wanted to tell him about the 20+ collective hours of natural labor I endured. I wanted him to know that I can lift a shovel, that I can toss rocks into a wheelbarrow. I wanted to tell him that I am capable.

But it doesn’t matter what he thinks. It doesn’t matter whether he thinks the pile should’ve waited until my husband got home from work, so that he could do the heavy lifting. What matters is the little girl who was standing beside me with an orange shovel in her hand.

This little girl insisted on scooping up rocks and dumping them into the wheelbarrow, exercising her three-year-old muscles as best she could. It matters to that girl who looked at me and said, “Mom, you’re sweaty.” It matters that she wanted to help, to get her hands dirty, to dig into the effort and the hard work. It matters that she sees I am capable and that she knows that she is capable of more than sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the man to move the rocks.

In parenting both a boy and two girls, I’ve come to see just how easy it is for people to call our girls princesses, to comment on their cute dresses or painted finger nails, to focus the conversation on superficiality and appearance. But I want my girls to know that they were made for more than that, that their bodies and minds are strong and capable, that their hands can get dirty, that a bit of sweat is a good thing, that sometimes they will need to roll up their sleeves and grab a shovel. And it’s just as important that my son also knows that women are more than manicures and ball gowns, that they are partners in crime and sources of strength, that they are not damsels in distress awaiting rescuing.

And, so, it matters that my kids see me flex my capabilities, that my son sees me huffing and puffing after another six-mile run, that they know I can do more than flip pancakes or fold laundry. It matters that they know that effort is not gender specific. It matters that they know they are capable of moving a few tons of an obstacle one-shovel load at a time, whether or not other people think the obstacle is too large for them to handle. And whether or not they break a nail in the process.


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{Photo credit: ©siSSen –}


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